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Previous Courses

London, England – Exploring the London of 
Charles Dickens and Jack the Ripper

The Honors travel-integrated course, "Exploring the London of Charles Dickens and Jack the Ripper," took place December 14-21, 2013. It combined students from two fall Honors courses: “Charles Dickens' Bleak House,” taught by Dr. Paula Marantz Cohen, and “The Logic of Criminal Detection: The Jack the Ripper Case,” taught by Dr. Fred J. Abbate.

The museums, landmarks, tours, and lectures that were part of this weeklong trip allowed students to visualize the London of Dickens’ fiction and get a clearer sense of the psychological, legal, and cultural context of the Ripper murder case. The visits allowed for interesting connections between material in the two courses and between Victorian and contemporary society. 

The itinerary included: the Charles Dickens Museum, Chancery Lane and Lincoln's Inn, the Royal College of Surgeons, Marshalsea Prison, the Sherlock Holmes Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum, theaters of the East End, and visits to neighborhoods that figured in Bleak House and the Ripper case. A special lecture on serial killers and a visit to Scotland Yard were planned, as well as daily discussions with instructors over tea at some of London's famous tea parlors, and steak and kidney pie at typical London pubs.

Cape Town, South Africa – Museums, Nature, & Narratives of South Africa

Museums are repositories of objects both living and dead. They keep alive forms of knowledge, histories, and culture, while denying or making invisible others. Museums are a physical manifestation to ways of thinking, ways of seeing, and ways of identifying – indeed, sometimes suppressing other ways thinking, seeing, and identifying in that process.  This course, “Museums, Nature, & Narratives of South Africa” drew upon the intellectual foundations of the Great Works Symposium course, “Life and Death in the Museum.” “Museums. Nature, & Narratives of South Africa” was designed to facilitate students intellectually grappling with these types of complex questions through museum and field experiences in and around Cape Town, South Africa.

While students were introduced to these themes and questions in “Life and Death in the Museum,” South Africa – and specifically, Cape Town – proved to be a unique and compelling case study for how science, nature, collecting, display, and national narratives are woven together in multifaceted ways. Thematically and topically, this course emphasized students exploring questions that center on the museums themselves, displays, and the associated stories (or narratives) that the museums’ displays tell.  Questions, topics, themes, and discussions for the course focused on:

  • Scientists and professionals in the museum
  • The work of display (“work” broadly defined)
  • The public display of knowledge through the presentation of science, technology and cultural heritage to different audiences
  • Museum controversies/museum politics by directing students toward a critical understanding of relations among museum professionals, patrons and funders, and audiences in a wide array of historical and contemporary museums. 

Drs. Lydia Pyne and Kevin Egan led this travel-integrated course to Cape Town, which offered a unique museum experience to students outside of a strictly traditional western European museum framework.  In Cape Town, students traveled to a variety of museums – ranging from natural history, social history, cultural, and even environmental within Cape Town itself, and the Cape region broadly. As the geographic emphasis of the Cape area (e.g. Table Mountain, Cape of Good Hope, the fynbos biome) featured so prominently in early natural history collections and research as well as the history of exploration, participants worked to orient each of these features into the travel course to highlight the geographic setting juxtaposed with the museums, their displays, and their associated narratives.  Students returned to campus with a new understanding of the complexities of South African museums and how South African museums and their narratives compare to the museums studied in Philadelphia.

Florence, Italy – Galileo in Italy

Designed to compliment the Great Works Symposium course on “Celebrity Science,” this course focused on Galileo’s life, scientific work, and legacy. There were three main learning goals for this trip: first, deepening students’ understanding of the context of Galileo's life and work; second, deepening students’ understanding of Galileo's life and work itself; and, third, by exploring Florence and surrounding areas, understanding the scope and impact of Galileo's legacy. Drs. Jonathan Seitz and Lloyd Ackert led the travel-integrated course, which included 13 Drexel students.

During their time in Florence, the group took part in a number of site visits, as well as day trips to surrounding parts of Italy. In Florence, site visits included the Museo Galileo/Institute and Museum for the History of Science. Additionally, participants explored the artistic and architectural heritage of the Medici (rulers of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, which was one of the most prominent in Europe in its day) in Florence. This provided a vivid sense of the dynasty's efforts to maintain and increase their power and prestige, and is essential for understanding both Galileo’s work and his eventual trial and conviction by the Inquisition. A visit to Galileo’s tomb, and to other sites in Florence, helped students to understand how views of Galileo changed in the centuries following his death. A day trip to the university town of Pisa allowed students to consider the early modern university, the alternative intellectual environment Galileo left to become a courtier. And, finally, a day trip to the Vatican provided a context for Galileo's run-ins with the Inquisition and the background to the Church's concerns about Galileo's work and publications.

London, England – The London Paralympic Games

“The London Paralympics” Honors travel-integrated course was a 9-day program that allowed Drexel students to experience the Paralympic Games firsthand. Throughout the travel-integrated course, students were able to directly witness many different Paralympic competitions in London. Students also learned about the history behind the Paralympics, as well as the scientific, technological, and medical innovations involved through a series of site visits, meetings with athletes and related professionals, and instructor-led coursework and discussion groups.

The course was an addendum to the summer Great Works Symposium course “Perspectives on Disability,” and was led by Dr. Scott Knowles, along with Drs. Kristine Mulhorn and Stephen Gambescia. Nine students took part in the travel-integrated course, the itinerary of which included:

  • Viewing various Paralympic games, including basketball, rugby, volleyball, goal ball, and swimming/diving.
  • Research and discussion meetings with experts in medicine, sports, and media
  • Cultural events such a tours of the Olympic Park, Tate Modern and London Eye, as well as attending the theater

Students undertook research projects that were extensions of research they began to conduct during the summer Great Works Symposium course. 

Washington, D.C. – Media Campaigns and Elections

This was a stand-alone travel-integrated course that took place over four intensive days in Washington, D.C. The purpose of this course was to provide students with a first-hand understanding of the complex, and sometimes opaque, relationship between the media and political campaigns. Students gained an insider’s perspective on how the media covers and shapes campaigns, and, conversely, how campaign strategies grapple with media coverage.

Dr. Kevin Egan led 10 Drexel students on this trip, the itinerary of which included:

  • Behind the scenes guided tours of the U.S. Capitol, NPR studio, and NBC news studio
  • Meetings with the NPR Washington Bureau chief, the executive producer of The Chris Mathews Show, Senator Toomey’s press secretary, American University Professor and author Alan Lichtman, and the creators of George Washington University’s “Face the Facts USA”
  • Visits to the Newseum and Smithsonian American History Museum
  • Attending public events at the National Press Club and American Enterprise Institute

Students also participated in daily exercises meant to keep them “hot on the campaign trail” – the purpose of these exercises (which included conducting interviews with people encountered on the street and contests to elicit the best quote from officials with whom we met) was to acclimate them to conducting research in the field. The final product of the course was for each student to generate a journalistic essay covering a topic germane to the media’s coverage of the election.

Learning goals for the course included:

  • Identify and describe the roles of various agents in the campaign process (for example: campaign consultants/strategists, communications directors, campaign directors, political advisors, lobbyists, etc.)
  • Demonstrate a comprehensive grasp of the core issues shaping the current election season
  • Critically assess media coverage of campaigns (for example, students should be able to identify various forms of bias and critique political commentary/coverage from an informed perspective)
  • Recognize and articulate the ways in which various fields of knowledge/expertise coalesce around campaigns and media coverage of the electoral process

Shanghai, China – The World’s Fair in History

World’s fairs have garnered the fascination of people for more than a century and half, since the first one held in London in 1851. World’s fairs have provided windows into the future for millions of people, offering up glimpses of new technologies, cultural explorations, and experiments in urbanism that both reinforce existing assumptions about the world, while opening up new avenues for expression and imagination.

This course offered students a look at the history of world’s fairs, including London (1851), Paris (1889), Chicago (1893), New York (1939 and 1964), Montreal (1967), and a fair that never happened in Philadelphia (1976). Questions explored included: what have nations and cities done to host fairs, what new plateaus in technology and design have they fostered, what futuristic images have they put forward? These questions give rise to a deeper level of analysis of international competition in the realms of technology and design, culture and politics in the modern world.

From May to October 2010, Shanghai hosted a world’s fair, built around the theme “Better City, Better Life.” Dr. Scott Knowles led this travel-integrated course, and, while in Shanghai, students examined the unfolding construction, promotions, political contexts, and actual experience of the fair. The successful execution of the course took place, in part, through an innovative partnership with Jiao Tong University in Shanghai. Learn more about the fair in Shanghai here.

The objectives of the course included:

  • Developing familiarity with major analytical questions related to the history of world’s fairs
  • Surveying different analytical methodologies with which to approach the history of world’s fairs
  • Writing analytical essays on primary and secondary sources
  • Conducting original research in primary sources; write an original research essay/project using primary and secondary materials

Sofia, Bulgaria – A Study in Emerging Democracy

Bulgaria travel-integrated course.In conjunction with the Great Works Symposium course on “Emerging Democracies,” this course explored issues of democratization specific to Bulgaria. As part of the larger “Emerging Democracies” course, students examined a number of issues facing countries transitioning to democracy, and this one-credit travel-integrated course focused upon a select number of these issues as they applied specifically to Bulgaria.  

Drs. Kevin Egan, Joel Oestreich, and Suzanne Rocheleau led the travel-integrated course. While in Bulgaria, students and faculty had the opportunity to work with researchers and faculty members at the University of Sofia.  This to took place through a series of lectures, discussions, presentations, and site visitations over the course of several days in Sofia.  Significant time was devoted to each specific topic that framed the course – the role of the media and the press in promoting democratic institutions; the legacy of national identity and nationalism in emerging democracies; and the interrelationship of economic liberalization and democratic governance.

Also as part of the trip, participants visited sites of cultural importance to trace the ancient history of Bulgaria as well as the emergence of democratic movements in recent history.  Through this experience, students gained a holistic and first-hand understanding of the troubles and successes that Bulgaria has witnessed in its transition to democracy. Overall, the goal of the travel-integrated course was for students to not only gain an appreciation for the “ins and outs” of democratization, but to also learn lessons that they could bring back to the United States and put into practice as democratic citizens.